Congratulations are definitely in order. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh along with setting a new USL regular season attendance record. A lot of hard work went into this both on and off the pitch so kudos to all involved.
But there is so much more to the story…
First, let’s look at what happened on the pitch. FCC tallied their first shut out. This is huge. The team plays a very high press attacking style of soccer. It is exciting and entertaining to watch, but when the ball turns over, the risk is that the team is caught up high and can’t transition effectively into a defensive stance. With a new team that hasn’t played together for long, it is especially challenging to make this transition without a miss-queue that leaves an opening. Getting that first clean sheet is a sign that the team, collectively, is starting to play as a unit. They are transitioning more cleanly and closing holes left when the play of the game moves players around the field.
But, a lot of things happened off the pitch too. Yes, Cincinnati broke the USL regular season attendance record but it was so much more….
Not only did we break the record but we broke it twice and it’s time to put to rest all of the voices in social media that don’t think that Cincinnati is a serious soccer city. Let’s look at what those nay-sayers said after the first time….
- Discounted tickets. The first time we broke the record there was a sale for youth players to wear their jersey and get in for $1. That obviously drove up the numbers. But that sale was no longer in effect last Saturday.
- Opposing supporters. The first time, Louisville brought a large supporters group. Without them, we aren’t able to set the record. There is no doubt that they did bring supporters. I’ve heard claims of 1000’s and I’d say there is some exaggeration, but let’s be fair, we only beat the previous record by 250 or so tickets. LCFC did bring that many supporters. So thanks but y’all did in fact buy tickets. You can count the tickets we buy when we show up down there in June. It’s only fair. This time, however, it was all Cincinnati and we shattered our own previous record by 3000 tickets! Sorry guys, Louisville doesn’t get credit for making Cincinnati a great soccer environment.
- Fair weather fans. Sure, on a beautiful sunny day you can draw fans. Last Saturday wasn’t exactly the nicest weather when sitting outside for 2 hours and we still turned out in force. low-50’s and overcast. Damp breezy air. Sure, the players may have enjoyed the cooler weather, but for all of us sitting still……
- After breaking the record the first time, attendance dipped at the next game. Despite the threat of thunderstorms and rain through most of the game, those who are looking for Cincinnati to fall, pointed at the attendance and shouted, “Ah ha. See, now your attendance is already falling.” Look again! No, we won’t break the record every game and sure, there will be games with lower attendance but Cincinnati is serious about our team. And really, you’re going to challenge us when 11k people sat in a rain storm and watched the game?
- But let’s look at the biggest nay-sayer of all…. Don Garber. He commented that 2 games doesn’t make a sustainable soccer market. No one is claiming it does, and we won’t claim that after 4 games either, but keep watching Mr. Garber. Call one time a fluke but we’ve broken the USL attendance record twice now and are sizing up strongly against existing MLS markets. Maybe you heard? FC Cincinnati led all US-based clubs in attendance on the weekend. Food for thought. This is year number one, and we’ve still got growth ahead of us. Right now, we just want to be the best USL team and market but don’t discount Cincinnati. Put us on your travel schedule next year, you won’t regret the experience.
A lot of press preceded this game. There was the call for 25k tickets from our owner Carl Lindner III. The supporters groups and broadcast partners all took to social media and heralded the call. But what struck me as exceeding profound, was that when the attendance count was announced, no one hung their heads and said, too bad because it was never about a specific number. It was about shouting to the world that Cincinnati loves soccer. It was about coming together as a city, as a community, as a team. Three fans in front of me raised their beers to the stadium and toasted our success. I thought at that time, “Drink up mates. You did well!”
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